UNDER President Xi Jinping, Chinese universities have faced enormous pressure to build programs that rivals those of the great institutions of the West.

At the same time, government officials have urged universities to promote Chinese values, by discouraging the use of Western textbooks, for example, and offering more courses on thinkers like Confucius and Marx.

For many universities,  online education provides a way to achieve both these objectives.

''Putting courses on international platforms can help promote Chinese culture,'' said Shi Xuelin, who oversees the online curriculum for Tsinghua. ''It also helps boost the school reputation.''

China's top universities have forged ties with several online education providers based in the  United States, including :
edX  and Coursera, to bring their offerings to millions of users, joining the ranks of schools like Columbia, Princeton and Yale. The courses are typically taught in Mandarin but with English subtitiles.

XI'an Jiatong University provides a course on Chinese philosophy. Nanjing University has started a class on the Jewish Diaspora in China. Shanghai Jiao Tong University is promoting a course on Chinese medicine and traditional culture.

Over the summer, Tsinghua presented a course on Chinese politics and economics titled , '' Will China rise as a disruptive Force? The Insiders' perspective.

When edX approached Tsinghua about offering a class of heroes in Chinese culture, university officials suggested a course on Mao and socialism, a requirement in Chinese universities that many students loathe for its brittle pronouncements on party thought.

The course is not about Mao's life, but rather his political theories, a form of Marxism that the party honours as a guiding ideology, but that most Chinese, including officials, all but ignore as irrelevant.

Professor Feng devised a condensed version of that course. The online version provides a discussion forum. Test are administered regularly. Those who pass are granted a certificate of completion.

Several students say they found the course to be close-minded, adding that it glossed over more controversial aspects of Mao's tenure, like the famine caused by the Great Leap Forward and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.

''It was way too ideological, with very little self-criticism,'' said Scott Drucks, 65, an American retiree in Hong Kong. Still, some said they found it enlightening. Asher de Sadeleer, 25, a student from the Netherlands, said he's gained a better understanding of why Mao is revered in China.

The online course seems to be more popular with the Chinese students, who say they enjoy reading the reactions of foreign students in the discussion forms.

''Sure, it may be a bit like propaganda, but it's something that's being taught in every school in China,'' said Xie Xinyan, 27, a medical student in Tianjin.
''More Chinese universities should offer these kinds of courses because it gives the world a window into China.''

To some scholars, China's ambitions in online education resemble the country's efforts over the past decade to improve public opinion about China by creating a global network of learning centers known as Confucius Institutes.

Li Xiaoming a computer science professor at Peking University who helps lead the online effort, said there were some similarities.

''Sometimes we teachers joke that we are actually doing Confucius Institutes, just with more advanced technological approach,'' he said.

By aggressively pursuing online education, Chinese leaders seem eager to replicate the success of the United States-

Which has long derived influence from educating hundreds of thousands of foreign students each year on American campuses.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of China. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society:

''' World Students' Ecosystem'''.

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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